Writing to Capture Interest
What’s the first goal of copywriting? Engage the reader. If the material doesn’t grab readers’ attention and get them to read the next sentence, the sentence after that, and so on to the end, the copywriting will fail its primary goal. And what is that goal?
- Induce those in a target market to buy or use an organization’s products and services.
- Create a favorable impression of the organization in the mind of the target market.
What is Copywriting
Copywriting is defined as writing to support an organization’s marketing and advertising purposes. The organization can be a business, a government entity, or a non-profit. Marketing writers, advertising writers, SEO writers, online content writers all copywriters.
Many business owners take on the role of a copywriter without knowing it. Writing a press release; sales brochure; event poster; an advertising script for a radio, TV, or online ad; tweeting an endorsement about a product are all examples of copywriting.
On the other hand, writing strictly meant to provide information or entertain is not copywriting. Magazine feature articles and the stories within books are not copywriting.
Know Your Target Market
A critical element to successfully writing good copy (copy is the industry term for text) is to identify and really understand the copy’s intended audience. This intended audience is often not the same as the organization’s target market. It is usually a subset. If the intended audience includes people who learned English as a second language,
For example, a non-profit may be focused on environmental issues in a particular geographic area that affect young children. Its target market would comprise parents, government officials, government agency workers, regulatory organizations, children, other environmental groups, and businesses that have an interest in that geographic area.
The intended audience for the non-profit’s upcoming fundraising event, however, may only be parents and businesses within the area. The copy on event posters and flyers would be targeted to resonate with those likely to attend or support the fundraising event: parents, businesses, and perhaps other environmental groups.
Someone writing the words on the flyers and posters to announce the event would want to use words that get the audience’s attention, make them want to come to the event, and/or contribute to the non-profit.
Denotation and Connotation
Words carry two kinds of meanings: denotative and connotative. Denotative meanings are the direct, explicit meanings of the words usually found in dictionaries. Connotative meanings, however, are harder to pin down. These are the meanings associated or suggested by the word. Connotations carry emotional shades of meanings that can conjure reactions ranging from faint to booming.
Copywriters are particularly interested in the connotative meanings. Using the right words creates the desired resonance with the target market. Using the wrong words means the copy won’t capture the target market’s attention, or even worse, get their attention and make them hostile to the organization.
A Copywriter’s Challenge
One of the challenges of copywriting is to select words with the right denotation AND connotation. Often changing one or two words in copy can dramatically change the effectiveness of the copy. Knowing the intended audience and the intended reaction to the copy is crucial.
For example, let’s consider poison and pesticide.
Most people would agree with the connotations above and so would have an adverse reaction to the word poison. However, many (if not most) environmentalists would attribute poison’s connotations to pesticide as well and use pesticide and poison interchangeably.
An invitation to celebrate an environmental organization’s achievements in preventing the use of pesticides would likely generate a negative attitude toward the organization if the invitation were sent to the general public. But if the same invitation talked about preventing the use of poisons, the general public’s reaction would likely be more favorable.
The danger for writers is to use words without understanding their connotations and the effect they will have on the target audience.
As Writing Jim, Jim Driggers provides copywriting and business process writing to owners of small- and medium-sized businesses. His clients gain sales through marketing text that better resonates with their customers, and they save money when their employees follow guides rather than impulses. His clients give themselves the time to focus on what they do well when they leave their writing to Writing Jim.